As he stood in the on-deck circle during Friday’s ninth inning, waiting for his turn to bat in what was then a tie game, Giancarlo Stanton knew that the outcome — win or lose — rested squarely on his broad shoulders.
“I knew this game was going to be lost or won because of me,” Stanton said.
The Marlins won because of Stanton.
They won 8-4 on his grand slam off Seattle reliever Yoervis Medina in the ninth, a walk-off blast that brought the crowd to its feet and his teammates out of the dugout to mob him at home plate.
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It was the fifth walk-off grand slam in Marlins history.
The bases-loaded blast also removed the goat horns from Stanton’s head.
“I knew if I got a chance to hit, I better take care of it,” Stanton said of his thought process before heading to the plate in the ninth. “What I did earlier in the game, we wouldn’t be in that situation if I had made that play.”
The play to which Stanton was referring was a fielding blunder in the second when he allowed a single to skip over his glove and roll to the wall, allowing both a Mariners baserunner and the batter to score.
As it turned out, it became a footnote in the larger story.
With the score tied 4-4 in the ninth, the Marlins put their first two hitters aboard on a Reed Johnson pinch-hit single and a Christian Yelich bunt. As Stanton stood in the on-deck circle, Marcell Ozuna was given orders to drop down a bunt to advance the runners into scoring position.
Had he succeeded, Stanton would have surely been walked, as he had been before in the game with first base open.
But manager Mike Redmond said he wanted to avoid a ground-ball double play (Ozuna had grounded into the Marlins’ only two double plays all season) and was willing to make the sacrifice with Stanton.
It never reached that point.
Ozuna got the bunt down, and the throw to third appeared to get there in time for the force on Johnson. But Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager bobbled the throw, and after umpires went to review the replay and saw what happened, the call was overturned and everyone was safe.
That brought Stanton to the plate with no outs and the bases loaded, and he launched Medina’s 1-2 pitch over the wall in left-center for the game-winner.
It was Stanton’s sixth home run and, with five RBI on the night, gave him a majors-leading 26 RBI on the season.
The late-inning dramatics spared the Marlins from another losing debacle in which they made more costly mistakes like those that have been plaguing them.
The Marlins jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first, with Stanton driving in one of the runs with a single. But Stanton gave two runs back in the Mariners’ second with a dumbfounding fielding gaffe on what started out as a routine single by Dustin Ackley.
Only it didn’t stay routine.
The ball hopped clean over Stanton’s glove and rolled all the way to the wall in right. By the time center fielder Ozuna was able to chase it down while backing up on the play, it was too late.
Not only did the runner on first score, so did Ackley on what was ruled a single and a three-base error charged to Stanton.
The Marlins regained the lead in their half of the second on an Ozuna sacrifice fly. But the damage might have been greater had Adeiny Hechavarria not been thrown out attempting to steal second earlier in the inning.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia made it 4-2 in the third with a towering home run that landed halfway up in the upper deck in right. Visually, the homer appeared more impressive than it actually was, as the folks at ESPN Stats and Information calculated the distance at a modest 429 feet.
But the Marlins were unable to maintain their advantage.
Seattle trimmed Miami’s lead to 4-3 in the fifth, and in the seventh tied it after Mike Dunn gave up a leadoff double to Abraham Almonte, second baseman Derek Dietrich mishandled a ground ball for his fourth error of the young season, and Corey Hart singled up the middle.
The Marlins have now been charged with 18 errors, behind only Washington’s 20 for most in the majors.
Their base running skills aren’t much better.
Yelich, who extended his career-long hitting streak to 12 games with a pair of hits, was tagged out in a rundown between third and home in a second inning that left the Marlins kicking themselves.
Of the six batters the Marlins sent to the plate in the second, five reached on either a hit or a walk. But only one managed to score.
In addition, Saltalamacchia was picked off first in the fifth inning.
“We had some base running mistakes [Friday night]. We had some defensive mistakes [Friday night],” Redmond said. “But at the end of the day, we were still able to get a win.”